Surrey County Council, Procter & Gamble, PricewaterhouseCoopers
The public sector has a good record for working flexible hours with "flexitime" operating in organisations in both central and local government. In some areas, however, the arrangement has been taken a few steps further.
As the only local authority to be included on the ministerial working group addressing the work-life balance, Surrey County Council has always had an innovative approach to flexible working arrangements, supporting home working and even opening a dedicated telecentre from where staff can pick up e-mails and hot-desk to carry out administrative work. At the moment, the organisation is in the middle of a five-year programme called Surrey Workstyle, a project designed to promote the best use of time, space and technology.
The dedicated telecentre is scheduled for closure, but the concepts behind the facility will be dissipated across area teams throughout the organisation. Liz Mowl, senior HR officer with responsibility for Workstyle, explains, "We hope to create individual team bases where employees can pop in to check e-mails and carry out their work. This way, each team will still have their own location in an office somewhere where they can hold meetings and so on. We have found that the need for one location is important in terms of each team's identity."
But while teams are waiting for their new "bases" to be created, they have already been given the means by which they can design their own working hours. The HR department has developed several working structures - Go Ahead Frameworks - and a series of questions to help staff determine how best their teams can work together.
"We are a very diverse organisation - some staff are still working nine to five, while others have very sophisticated employment patterns," says Mowl. "What we are saying to staff is wherever you are, take the next step. If you're on fixed hours, try staggered hours; if you have flexitime, try a nine-day fortnight."
To ensure these new working arrangements are effective the council has focused on giving managers the right skills to direct their remote team. "Managing remotely does not require radically different skills but you need to be clear and secure in how you're managing each part. There are a lot of issues around trusting people and managing by outcome rather tha